Storm-Lynx Playoff History

Kevin Pelton, | Sept. 24, 2012

When the Seattle Storm and Minnesota Lynx last met in the postseason, the Storm had never won a postseason game. Svetlana Abrosimova and Katie Smith were on the other side, the latter in street clothes due to injury. And Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson were the talented youngsters poised to control the league.

2004 was the first of the Storm's WNBA record nine playoff appearances in a row. The Storm, at 20-12, entered the first-round series as the No. 2 seed in the West and with the league's second-best record overall. The Lynx finished 18-16 and in third place despite playing the last 11 games of the season without Smith, who injured her ACL before the break than reinjured it while representing the USA in the Athens Olympics, ending her season.

Sheri Sam celebrates the Storm's series victory over Minnesota in 2004.
Jeff Reinking/NBAE/Getty Images

Sam celebrates the Storm's series victory over Minnesota in 2004.

In Smith's absence, Minnesota relied heavily on defense under then-Head Coach Suzie McConnell-Serio, combining the league's stingiest D with a below-average offense. The Storm countered with a more balanced attack, featuring a pair of players acquired from the Lynx in a preseason trade - forward Sheri Sam and center Janell Burse. (Minnesota got forward Amanda Lassiter and a first-round pick used on center Nicole Ohlde.)

Under the old format, the best-of-three series started in Minnesota with Game 1 on Saturday afternoon. Early foul trouble put Jackson on the bench for much of the first half, and the Lynx used a 13-0 run to take the lead in her absence. The Storm turned to its depth and answered with a 16-2 surge, producing a halftime lead. Playing on the road, the team kept its composure during the second half of a 70-58 victory to take control of the series, the first playoff win ever for the Storm.

The win was notable for the Storm's balanced contributions. Sam stole the show with the first playoff double-double in franchise history (10 points, 11 rebounds, plus seven assists), but all 11 players saw action and scored. The Storm bench outscored its Minnesota counterparts 23-11.

As the scene shifted to Seattle for Monday's Game 2, the Storm had an opportunity to sweep the series and advance to the Western Conference Finals for the first time. That possibility was overshadowed in the game's early moments, when Bird took an inadvertent elbow to the face from veteran Lynx guard (and future Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer) Teresa Edwards. She went to the locker room with her nose bloodied and broken. The injury would sideline Bird the rest of the game.

In her stead, the Storm turned to veteran backup Tully Bevilaqua, whose 27-minute outing was the longest of her two-year career in Seattle. Bevilaqua contributed nine points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals, giving the Storm a lift off the bench.

Still, Minnesota led by three with 9:47 to play after an Amber Jacobs three-pointer. Thereafter, the Storm would turn up the defensive intensity to eliminate the Lynx. The Storm went on an extended 19-6 run the remainder of the game, forcing 10 consecutive Minnesota misses before Abrosimova scored two buckets in the closing stages. The Storm finished out a 64-54 win for the first playoff series victory in franchise history.

"I think winning tonight was huge," said Bird. "It says so much about our team to be able to do that. The first game, we didn't have Lauren for the first half, and tonight they didn't have me for the whole game. We were able to win it in two. They were playing against a team that was playing for their lives, so for us to play like that was great. It was a great game."

The Storm went on to defeat Sacramento in the Western Conference Finals and Connecticut in the WNBA Finals to win the first of two WNBA titles. Minnesota would struggle after trading Smith to Detroit the following season, and would not get back to the playoffs again until last year, when the Lynx won the championship.

blog comments powered by Disqus